The Sinklers of Glasgow
We have a new name for what was our “Alexander Sinkler lineage.” These descendants of Alexander Sinkler – the 1698 immigrant to Virginia – are now proven to have been in Scotland and to have been there as far back as the early 1400s.
Follow the Money
The early story of Virginia is the story of Tobacco. And it was this plant and it’s economic boom that allowed our ancestor, Alexander, to prosper in Virginia and me to search out his connections back into Scotland. But there are more stories in Virginia, more than any of us knew until the St Clair DNA project began to uncover the hidden truth.
This is my line – Steve St Clair – and my distant cousin and Co-Admin Danny Redmond’s. I’ve done intensive records research on this line since 2001. I know a great deal about it. But we’re not the only ones who have researched this family.
For over 35 years, Jean Grigsby labored to uncover the history of the descendants of the immigrant Alexander Sinkler who crossed from Liverpool on Ye Loyalty in 1698.(4) Jean stopped with Alexander. My search has been to understand to which of the families in Scotland he might connect. To accomplish this, I began again and attempted to uncover every possible scrap of information about the influences on Alexander and his children, in the colony, in Scotland, Ireland and even in France. With the help of Stan St, Clair, co-founder of our DNA study, Jean Grigsby and Rob Goff, we began to dissect who he worked with, who his neighbors were, who his children married, and anyone else who may have been a part of his world. I won’t go into all that here, but these facts are online and available to anyone who has an interest in this line.
Alexander stated that he was ‘of Glasgow’ in a court deposition in the 1700s. (3) In the 1600’s Glasgow was tiny, only becoming a large city with the success of the Tobacco Lords of the early 1700s. In speaking to several researchers in Scotland, it’s now clear that Alexander’s statement at the September 7th, 1745 land deposition for John Mercer that he was ‘of Glasgow’ is in fact how Scots people to this day refer to the place they were born.
Our entire lineage is downstream of R-ZS4576. With our Border Reiver lowland connections, it’s likely that this lineage never lived in the Highlands of Scotland. The hotspot for the R-ZS4576 is in the Lock Lomond area.
Alexander landed in Richmond County (2) and worked there for a number of years before heading into the frontier of what is now Prince William County, just south of Washington DC. It’s hard to believe this was the frontier, but the practice at the time was to put the “less desirable” Scots up against the Natives. The Sinklers did get into skirmishes with Natives. (5)
NEWS April, 2023:
Deep Records Research Leads to Promising Evidence of Alexander Sinkler’s Parents
For years, I’ve bumped into records research online that Alexander Sinkler married Mary Wayman. The belief in this was based on Alexander’s son’s first name, Wayman. And there were Wayman families across the Potomac in Maryland. The problem is that there are no records of a marriage with Alexander Sinkler.
Once Alexander’s will was re-discovered in the wrong place in the Bull Run Library of northern Virginia, it became clear that Alexander’s first son was Robert. It was clear because the oldest son would have received the lion’s share of the property (the main asset). Alexander’s will bears that out.
At one point, I had hired a researcher to pull business, marriage, and death records between 1650 and 1700 from repositories in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Looking back, I saw a marriage that looked promising , but it was in an Edinburgh church. Now I realize I had what I now call “stayed in their sandbox” bias.
My research into the marriage records of Scotland turned up a Jonet Glasfoord who married a Robert Sincler in Edinburgh in 1658. That Robert Sincler was a “heelmaker.” Jean Grigsby always thought Alexander was working in the leather tanning trades before he switched to growing tobacco. Now we know why. The Glasfoord family became very rich in the tobacco trade in Virginia.
I made several trips to the George Arents Collection in the New York City Public Library at 42nd and 5th Avenue in New York City. I live nearby.
From their website – “The George Arents Collection comprises two distinct groupings of materials under a single umbrella. The first portion of the collection, the Arents Tobacco Collection, constitutes the largest and most comprehensive library in the world devoted to the history, literature, and lore of tobacco. The collection contains both printed and manuscript works—as well as prints, drawings, and ephemera—dating from 1507 to the present, representing Continental Europe, England, and the Americas.”
In 1774, “Glassford, Gordon, Monteath & Company” were trading in the County of Prince William. I found a document with Alexander’s name on it trading with Glassford, Gordon, Monteath & Company.
Alexander’s mother being in the Glasford family would have changed his stars:
- It explains Alexander’s surprisingly short indenture: “4 Yeares.”
- I think it’s possible that Alexander’s wife in Glasgow died young and that would explain the late age of his indentured servitude (33 years old).
- It explains why Alexander’s oldest son was named Robert.
I’m excited to work out these tobacco trading deals with the Glasfords and Alexander Sinkler. And present more on the marriage of Alexender’s parents Robert Sincler and Jonet Glasfoord in 1658.
Does this rule out Mary Wayman? It’s possible she died early and Alexander re-married while still in the Glasgow area. We find no record for a second marriage. We find no mention of a Wayman surname in Alexander’s will. With the lack of a single reliable source, and with the new and solid research above, I will be studying the Wayman family in Scotland.
Herdmanston Descendants in Western Virginia
There is an Alexander St. Clair of Augusta County whose connection to our family was unknown for a long time. Records on this man are scarce. I’ve dug up about every record on the area and found only a few. Here is a typical record –
Alex. St. Claire witness in suit
Event Date: 08/1789
Location: Staunton, Va
Papers of Henry Banes
(Section 35) Mssl; B2264a
Deposition of Jacob Kinney
High Court of Chancery
Town of Staunton, Augusta County, Virginia at the house of Peter Hieshell, Jacob Kinney a witness in a suit, Richard Mathews Plt. vs Alex. Montgomery and James Montgomery Def.
August 1789, he saw James Montgomery in the Town of Staunton who informed him that he was to collect the amount due to Alex. Montgomery by bond of Richard Mathews, Jno. Gardner and Wm. Chambers.
Signed: Jacob Kinney
Witnesses: Wm. Boyer and Alex. St. Claire (12 Feb 1781)
Court Order for William Boyer and Alexander St. Clair to appear in court for the case of Mathews vs Montgomery dated 15 January 1791.
Note: William Boyer and Alexander St. Clair were the last church wardens of Augusta Parish. (2)
The spelling of that name may remind you of the research I’m doing in the UK. That spelling is very prominent in southern England. Of course, there is a chance that one of our “Mystery Grouping” is in fact closely related to both the Alexander St. Claire of Staunton and to the Sinclair Bottom group.
This from a web posting by a Patti – (3) “Sir John St. Clair (this was original spelling of the name) came to the Province of Virginia as representative of the Crown in early 1700. Later, Alexander St. Clair was a member of the Commission (British). These two must have joined the patriots because Birg. General Arthur St. Clair administered the Oath of Allegiance to George Washington at Valley Forge, in 1777.” Also, we are descended from Sir John. The English do not say “St. Clair” as we do but run it together as “Sinkler” hence the source of another spelling of Sinclair which you’ll find in studying the name. Arthur St. Clair was a brother of Sir John. I’ll keep digging as I know I have more information on the Sinclairs. They did migrate to TN and many of them went on to Missouri and Illinois.”
Sources for Alexander Sinkler research –
- Smout, T.C. “A History of the Scottish People, 1560-1830,” Printed in Great Britain by HarperCollinsManufacturing Glasgow, 1969, ISBN 000 686027 3 One of my best resources on Scottish history.
- All first person research in Virginia, Scotland, Ireland, France and England.
- John Mercer Land Record Book, (1654-1767) Accession 20487, Miscellaneous Reel # 285 Personal Papers Collection The Library of Virginia Archives Branch – Richmond, Virginia The Deposition of Alexander Sinclair
- Grigsby, Jean, “Sinkler Sinclair St. Clair, a Family History, Volume 1,” Henington Publishing Company, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 88-91397, Copyright (c) 1988, Jean Grigsby Family Histories.
- WPA – Virginia Historical Inventory related to farms, family homes, etc. in Prince William and Fauquier county, “The Diary of the Rev. Matthew G. Gollschalk,” who traveled through Maryland and Virginia, April 9, 1748.– (In his writing about Germantown.) “Within a mile of Germantown, the Sinclairs built a house, from which the Indians were fought back.” We knew that the Fauquier property was on Licking Run, so this information puts their home within a mile of Germantown on the side which was closest to Licking Run.
- Saint-Clair, Roland William, The Saint-Clairs of the Isles, being a History of the Sea-Kings of Orkney and their Scottish Successors of the Sirname of Sinclair,” H. Brett, General Printer and Publisher, Shortland and Fort Streets, Auckland, N.Z., 1898.